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52apolooza: Justice League

Written by The 52apolooza Team on Saturday, September 10 2011 and posted in Reviews

52apolooza begins with six reviews of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's Justice League #1!

Welcome to 52apolooza, the Outhouse feature focusing on DC's September Relaunch.  All of DC's 52 titles will be reviewed by our pool of reviewers to point out the best and worst that DC's new comic book line has to offer. To see how this book stacks up to the other titles, be sure to check out our 52apolooza Rankings!

Up first is Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's Justice League.  How did the book fare with our reviewers?  Read on to find out!
DC Reviewer: The Geek

This is it. Justice League #1 has landed. After wading through the speculation, the negativity, the excitement and the hype, is the opening salvo from the DCnU any good?

Well, it certainly could have been better.

Geoff Johns sets up the first meeting of DC's premier superteam amidst gunfire, misunderstandings and big, scary monsters that tease of something bigger and scarier down the road. Johns welcomes you to a world where Superman is just starting out, Batman is an urban legend, and Green Lantern is kind of a douche. For oldies like me, it's an interesting look at what the DCnU looks like, for better or worse. This is a book that's got police shooting at Green Lantern. Police! Shooting at a Green Lantern! Cats and dogs living together! But newbies are sure to find this exciting.

If you're looking for the whole Justice League shebang in the first issue, you're out of luck, as this is more of a Batman/Green Lantern story than anything else. Two of DC's biggest characters (by way of their movies, of course!) opening up a book isn't exactly a bad idea, though, and anyone who hasn't read comics coming into this will at least have a hook they can latch on to in this big, scary reboot. The subtle jabs and banter between the two characters are pretty good, and Johns takes it as an opportunity to show what these two characters are capable of, what their personalities are, their powers, etc. Let none say that the first issue ain't newbie-friendly!

It also helps to have your first issue have awesome art, and veteran superstar artist Jim Lee's style fits the bill. I've been a fan of Lee's since his early days, and I can only say he's gotten better over the years. The art is in-your-face, the action exciting, the characters larger than life. Sure, he may over-render things here and there, but it doesn't detract from an otherwise good issue.

So why did I say it could have been better? Well, let's just say that instead coming right out of the gate in a TNT-fueled rocket, Johns opted to let the book simmer over low to medium heat. Aside from a few pleasant surprises and a not-so-surprising reveal at the end, this book could have been anything DC was pumping out before this reboot. In this day and age of fickle tastes, DC just can't afford to only let curiosity fuel the people's need to find out what happens next.

Justice League #1 may not be a bad comic, not by a long shot, but it drowned in its own hype. For all DC sacrificed to get to this point, 'not bad' just doesn't cut it. It's a good first issue in what looks like a mini-series, and that's about it.

Writing: 15/25
Art: 20/25
Accessibility: 25/25
Enjoyability: 17/25


Marvel Reviewer: Dom G

Reading Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's Justice League #1 reminds me of when I watched the first 5 minutes of Pixar's Cars. While watching early scenes in Cars I could not get past the reality that cars do not talk. I started squirming in my seat at the theater not knowing if I was going to watch a whole film that was so far from the norm (cars not speaking, yet simply using their horns for communication like Herby). Fortunately, the film ended up being very good. The plot and characters became so engrossing that I could see past the altered reality of cars speaking and enjoy the film.

Justice League, and the whole new DC 52 universe, has the chance to be a successful Pixar film. But as of feels like the first 5 minutes of Cars.

Spoilers Ahead!

As the issue opens in Gotham, readers are told that the events we are about to witness happened 5 years ago. The characters have been around for a little while (before the 5 years back point) based on dialog between Gotham police, and later when Batman confesses to knowing a bit about some super-powered characters; but, for the purposes of telling the Justice League's origin story 5 years ago seems to be the starting line. And at that starting line is the first meeting of team members...Batman and Green Lantern?

The first two Justice Leaguers to meet seems like it should be Batman and Superman. They are DC's flagship characters and have had so much history toge...ah, wait a tick. I'm sorry, I was thinking about the way things used to be. In the new 52-verse Bats and Hal (I'm assuming Green Lantern's name is still Hal Jordan) can meet first, play hop-scotch and establish the team. It's cool based on the new reality. Did the decision to put 2 characters who have recent DC movies (GL this past summer and DVD soon, and Batman next summer) together as the focal point of a huge #1 release that every comic reader on the planet would read play a part in the pairing of heroes? Maybe...

Anyway, after some Batman and Green Lantern alone time where they discover some sort of alien technology, Justice League #1 flips to a scene with another classic JL hero, Aqu...I mean, Wonde...I mean, Flas...umm, who's left? What?! Cyborg? The Van Dam movie? Okay, so there are few pages that delve into Cyborg's life before he is Cyborg. Thrilling.

Back to heroes the rest of the comic world actually cares about, Bats and GL do eventually stumble upon another DC big boy when the discover Superman, who is revealed in all of his new costumed, young...glory? I won't go too far into the costume design because plenty of sites have covered the awkward armor type uniforms everyone seems to wear, but with Superman, I must say that his sleeves that cover the backs of his hands is just stupid. Yeah, everyone appears to have armored knees and the same tailor when it comes to their little mock-turtle necks, but that I can let slide. It's Supe's triangular hand cover that kills me.

While I'm touching on design... Jim Lee. While some people are Lee-ed out due to years of buff heroes in the 90's, I actually believe he is a good fit for Justice League. His art style is very straight forward and draws superheroes the way most are seen in comic and non-comic reader's heads: muscular, good looking and clothed with the tightest of fabrics. I'm not going to lie, hand guards aside, Lee's Superman looked dreamy. I think it's the hair. Yeah, it's the hair.

Designs aside, it's like Jim Lee said in a quote on NPR (but not in his most recent interview), "We can change character designs, but in the end, the story has to be good."

I think the story is just alright so far, but with the chance to get better. The depth of the story reminds me of another current DC title I'm reading, which isn't affected by or a part of, the new 52: DC Universe Online Legends. This title is an alternate tale where readers don't have to know the state of the current DC-verse, rather, readers only need to have basic knowledge about the heroes. Justice League #1 felt like I was reading an alternate universe tale where I needed basic knowledge of the characters to care about what was going on.

I'm unsure if new readers will find the first issue as catchy as DC hopes. Will new comic readers who have minimal prior knowledge accept a Green character doing weird things with a ring, right off the bat (pun intended)? Green Lantern is a character you get eased into. I worry that Johns included him too early not just because of recent film events, but also because he's been his particular utensil for the last several years. To Johns, GL seems like such a basic character to get, but to new readers...he is a little more than just a buff guy that Superman. With that said, maybe I'm not giving new readers enough credit.

I did have a buddy who has never read a single comic book issue and he did note that while at first he was a bit confused about what was going on, he understood the direction by the end of the issue. He also noted that Johns did a nice job at separating the character's voices. My pal thought that each character had a unique voice which made reading the dialog easy. I have to give props to Johns for scripting the issue well.

I understand the story is supposed to be pretty straight forward for new readers, but for current comic readers it seemed a bit dull. Plus, I couldn't help but think that what is happening in this issue is wrong, or an alternate story. It doesn't feel real...yet.

The first issue wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. I'm sure once I, and other readers, get over our initial reactions to the changes that the new DC-verse brings the story will turn-out to be fun and enjoyable. But as for now... I'm watching cars speak, and it's making me squirm.

Score – 78/100

Grab Bag Reviewer: Christian Hoffer

Over the last two days, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's Justice League #1 has been the center of intense and often overbearing scrutiny. The scrutiny wasn't exactly surprising given that Justice League was foisted up as one of the tentpoles of the new DC Universe, but what was surprising, at least to me, was how lofty people's expectations for this book was. Judging from other's reactions to this book, it seems as if people were expecting some combination of Shakespeare, Hemingway, Alan Moore and Salman Rushdie with art by Michelangelo, Picasso, Norman Rockwell and Frank Lloyd Wright and edited by God himself.

Let's face it, both Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are top-tier creators who have almost exclusively worked on projects that are more typically more sizzle than steak in recent years. With Green Lantern, Brightest Day, The Flash and Flashpoint, Geoff Johns has relied more of shocking plot twists and strong character moments to make up for a lack of character progression or deeper themes.  Unlike Johns' past work on books such as JSA, Johns' has tended to focus less on the growth of a character and more on how the character reacts to different situations.

Meanwhile, Jim Lee is one of the biggest names in the industry who only works on what he considers to be the most high profile projects available. Looking at the creative team involved, one would expect Justice League to feature a character moment heavy plot, hints at a larger danger lurking in the background and flashy art that focuses more on minute details rather than stylized simplicity.

And that's what Justice League #1 is. The plot is relatively simple. Hal Jordan and Batman meet for the first time and investigate extraterrestrial activity in Gotham. After an explosive confrontation, the two heroes travel to Metropolis to confront a certain other well-known alien. Johns spends most of his time focusing on Batman and Green Lantern's relationship. While longtime fans might not enjoy Batman and Green Lantern sizing each other up, it's a necessary step to develop the two's relationships for the mythical new readers that the book is trying to draw in. It's evident that Johns and the powers that be at DC intend for this arc to be the foundation of the new universe they're building. Instead of trying to throw a condensed plot in, Johns instead takes the methodical approach of building the character interactions instead of the plot. Also, Johns teases the reader with a more proactive version of Superman than we've seen in over a decade.

Jim Lee's art is still as flashy as it was twenty years ago. While the pencils were flashy and fun to look at, the light inking and coloring (probably due to the amount of lines that Lee uses in his work) set the artwork back a bit. When reading the comic, the art almost looked slightly out of focus and honestly reminded me of trying to view a standard definition station on a HD television. When compared to other top-tier artists such as Stuart Immonen or Oliver Copiel, Jim Lee's art didn't hold up on the same level.

Overall, I felt that Johns and Lee decided to play it safe with their first chapter of Justice League. There were no attempts to push the envelope or swing for the fence in this issue. Many online took fault with this and decided to declare the issue, the book, and the new direction a failure since DC didn't reinvent the wheel in thirty pages of comic book. While the direction didn't wow me, it didn't turn me off to the new DC universe either.

Justice League #1 is a standard superhero comic. It strives not to be the best comic book on the shelves today but the average against which all others are judged. While others may look at this book as the best DC should be offering, in my opinion it represents the norm that DC needs to maintain if they are serious about drawing in new readers and providing better books. If DC releases twenty-five titles better than Justice League #1 this month, then their reboot has been a resounding success.

Story: 20/25
Art: 19/25
Accessibility: 25/25
Enjoyability: 21/25

Overall Score: 85/100

New Reader Reviewer: Tricia Long

I had pretty high expectations going into this issue. Not necessarily because I know anything about the Justice League beyond Super Friends, but because DC has been around a long time. I would think that if readers continue to buy from them, it must mean there's some value to their product. I was pretty disappointed by Justice League #1, not in the art but in the callow OBVIOUSNESS of every single word that came out of each character's mouth. There's an entire corps of Green Lanterns? Batman doesn't have bat powers? Superman is an alien? Stop it, DC, my head is spinning. This is not the world I knew! Everything I thought is a lie! If you have been living under a rock for the last 40 years, then this is the introductory issue you've been after!

Sarcasm aside, the art was decent. I liked the cover much better than the story art, which was a little too swirly for me to follow. There was one especially, when Batman caught the whatever-it-was he was chasing, where I had a hard time figuring out the sequence of the panels. The ability to use art as a storytelling medium is part of the essential appeal of comics, and I felt that it didn't add much in the way of storytelling to this book. Just in case you think I'm bashing this for fun, I did like the fire engines and the safe that Green Lantern conjured with his magic ring.

Of course, there wasn't much story to the book because there were advertisements on every other page. It was like television in comic book form – 45% commercials. And then, suddenly, it was over. Extremely suddenly, and I felt like nothing had happened. It couldn't even have been a freaking one act play because NOTHING HAPPENED. Ok, I should take that back. Green Lantern met Batman and made fun of his bat-voice, which compelled me to the faintest of chuckles. Way to pander to the audience, assuming they've all seen Christopher Nolan's take on Batman. Oh wait, exactly how "new" of a reader are you looking for here, DC? You're sending mixed signals.

It's obvious what DC wants: for you to buy the next issue, where Superman and Batman duke it out. And you know what? That was a cheap move. It's so transparent that it made me believe in ghosts. If you have this little respect for your new readers, then fuck you, DC. You have about eight more chances to make me believe you aren't run by Scrooge McDuck, or something less awesome because then I would start calling you Duck Comics. And you don't deserve that.

Writing: 4/25
Art: 13/25
Accessibility: 25/25
Enjoyability: 1/25

Total score: 43/100

Final 52apolooza Score : 283/400

Want to read more reviews?  Be sure to check out the next page for some more reviews from our staff!

Dissenting Reviewer: Lord Simian

Well, its here. The New DC Universe has arrived, and our first taste of it is in our hands. JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 by Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams. It's been hyped, it's been excoriated, it's been praised from the mountaintops.... And all of that was before anyone had even seen it!

Well, now the Lord of the Monkeys has seen it. I haven't been reading monthly comics regularly in five years or so, but I've been thinking about getting back into the game. And so, honestly, I was looking forward to the DCnU; it might be the perfect jumping on point for new readers, and that's kind of where I am these days. So, I decided to review all of my books for 52apalooza as far as a single question: Can this book convince me that I should return to monthly comics and buy it every month?

Much has been made over the last few days, good and bad, about the writing of the issue. Do all seven members of the League feature in the book? No. Is that a huge crime, one brand new to comics and never seen before? Nope. It's a long-standing thing in comics to have scenes on covers that don't appear in the book. Are the characters written well? Eh. Some are, some aren't. Batman is.... Well, Batman is Batman. He's gruff, he thinks anyone who doesn't sit back and shut up is an idiot... he's kind of a grim jerk. But he is Batman. Green Lantern? Comes off as inexperienced and arrogant. Kind of naïve and overconfident. Hey, I think I just described early Hal Jordan! Superman... well, he only has two lines, so who the heck knows? But the plot of the issue.... Is extremely weak. An alien is being chased through Gotham by Batman! Green Lantern butts in! The alien defeats them both, in a way! Dejected at the embarrassing loss, they decide that hey, Superman's an alien! Let's go kick HIS ass instead! Then.... Wait, that's it? Really? Ok. It's the opening beat to a story arc, so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt as a story, but as the introduction to the whole new universe, you kind of... expect more.

Artwise.... Hell, you know what? If you're reading this review at the Outhouse, you know who Jim Lee is. Do you like Jim Lee and Scott Williams' work as you've seen it over the last twenty years? Cause if so, you'll like this, mostly. If not, you'll hate it. I am a fan of their work, mostly, but I was slightly let down here. It looks like Lee is trying to OVERdetail things too far. You don't need lines all over the place just for the sake of having lines. And I'm not talking about seams in the armors, or what not. I'm talking about the fact that no solid object is allowed to exist without crosshatching or lines, and in at least one panel, I think I see lines drawn for no reason... ON THE EMPTY SKY. I will say, I did like the throwaway nod to Cyborg's (past? future? Who knows?) on the high school football field, showing that his team is the Ford Titans.

Costume designs aren't BAD, for the most part, but again, it looks like they were designed by toy makers in the '90s. And not the Marvel Legends guys, no. The guys who decided that we needed Artic Stalker Camo Batman or Fisherman Spidey. Why is Batman wearing Nintendo Power Gloves? Why does GL have his old, standard costume.... With armored shoulder pads? JUST his shoulders need armor? Why? Are they weak points? Does the ring have a weakness against shoulder strikes? And for that matter, why the hell does SUPERMAN need armor? And don't give me any nonsense about bio-electric auras not being there anymore, or some such. He's frigging SUPERMAN. Why doesn't his costume tear when he fights? For the same reason freaking LASERS COME OUT OF HIS EYES AND LIGHT FIRES: Because the comic book says so. And finally... there's something wrong with your design, Jim, when you draw your interpretation of Parademon, and I spend the first half of the book wondering why the hell Batman needs Green Lantern's help to take down Killer Croc.

Overall, I know it sounds like I had problems with the book, and I did. It would really have benefited, I think, from a different editor. Eddie Berganza might be a great editor, but it really feels like he just let Jim and Geoff run wild, and it wasn't as focused as it should have been for the FIRST BOOK of your BOLD NEW DIRECTION.

But putting aside the BOLD NEW DIRECTION... how does the book stand on it's own? It's not so bad. It's obviously a story's bare beginnings, and I hope something important actually happens before issue 4, but it also shows a lot of promise. I'd like to read the rest of the story arc. Unfortunately for Justice League #1, the question wasn't "Would I buy the TPB", it was "Would this book convince me to get this monthly?" And the answer is no. Sorry, Justice League. I'll give you another couple of issues to change my mind, but so far, you didn't make the cut.

Story 16/25
Art 17/25
Accessibilty 19/25
Enjoyability 15/25

Total: 67/100

Dissenting Reviewer: Comic Doctor

The new Justice League #1 is an extremely important book for DC. It launches their new universe, will be the flagship title for the company, introduces us to some main "new" characters, and is comicdoms first look, feel, and taste into the Nu52. A good book could mean a strong start, but a bad book could mean cataclysmic doom for the entire company.

Tapping uber-writer Geoff Johns and superstar artist Jim Lee to take the reins of Justice League was a great idea. Both of these creators have massive followings and for good reason - both usually strike gold with whatever they work on. Personally I'm a fan of John's writing, and Jim Lee is a god in my eyes. He's easily my all-time favorite artist in the history of comics, so I was very excited to see his new work.

I quite liked Justice League #1. We're introduced to a sly Batman, an arrogant more powerful Green Lantern, Vic Stone (seemingly not yet Cyborg), and a less wussy Superman. Their attitudes and interactions are fresh, and I assume that's what DC was going for. Batman doesn't like GL's flashiness and quickly deduces that he's nothing without his power-ring. GL can't believe Bats is just a normal guy in a suit and acts like he has to protect him. Superman thumps GL with ease, and seems ready to do the same to Batman, but not until next issue. I'm sure fanboys everywhere are salivating for that matchup.

Jim Lee and Scott Williams' artwork is nothing short of amazing. Great detail, tight linework, and easy to follow storytelling. I had no trouble following what was going on at any point. Rendering a simple smirk on Batman was enough to get a story-point across. I just hope the quality doesn't start to drop off in future issues.

I honestly can't wait for Justice League #2 to hit stands, and I'm currently still pumped to read the other 51 launches. If DC does as good of a job as they did on Justice League #1, then they will have one hell of a new universe and MAY become the new #1 in comics as they are hoping to be.

Writing: 24/25
Art: 25/25
Accessibility: 23/25
Enjoyability: 21/25

TOTAL: 93/100

Written or Contributed by: The 52apolooza Team

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About the Author - Christian

Christian is the exasperated Abbott to the Outhouse's Costello. When he's not yelling at the Newsroom for upsetting readers or complaining to his wife about why the Internet is stupid, he sits in his dingy business office trying to find new ways to make the site earn money. Christian is also the only person in history stupid enough to moderate two comic book forums at once.


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